• Sensitivities of annual carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) flux estimates to parameter variations are determined.
• Model parameters that specify annual inventories are compared with those that determine timing and magnitude of bloom events.
• Seven model parameters are of primary importance, affecting C, N and P budgets simultaneously.
• Nine parameters have negligible effects on annual budget estimates and on seasonal trajectories.
• Parameter categorization provides important prior information for parameter optimization in the central Baltic Sea.
This study describes a sensitivity analysis that allows the parameters of a one-dimensional ecosystem model to be ranked according to their specificity in determining biochemical key fluxes. Key fluxes of interest are annual (a) total production (TP), (b) remineralization above the halocline (RM), and (c) export at 50 m (EX) at the Baltic Sea monitoring site BY15 located in the Gotland Deep basin. The model resolves mass flux of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorous (P), while considering nitrogen fixation explicitly. Our first null hypothesis is that the variation of the value of every single model parameter affects each annual C, N, and P budget simultaneously. Our second null hypothesis states that the variation of every parameter value induces changes at least in either of the annual C, N or P budgets. Our analyses falsify both null hypotheses and reveal that 8 out of 36 parameters must be regarded redundant, as their variation neither alter annual key fluxes nor produce considerable time-shifts in model trajectories at the respective site. Seven parameters were found to induce substantial changes in annual C, N, and P flux estimates simultaneously. The assimilation efficiency of zooplankton turned out to be of vital importance. This parameter discriminates between the assimilation and destruction of algal prey during grazing. The fraction of unassimilated dead algal cells is critical for the amount of organic matter exported out of the euphotic zone. The maximum cellular N:C quota of diazotrophs and the degradation/hydrolysis rate of detrital carbon are two parameters that will likely remain unconstrained by time series data, but both affect the annual C budget considerably. Overall, our detailed specification of model sensitivities to parameter variations will facilitate the formulation of a well-posed inverse problem for the estimation of C, N and P fluxes from stock observations at the Gotland Deep.